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Travel Thailand Bangkok

A statue of Buddha sitting atop a taxi is silhouetted by vehicle lights during rush hour traffic on Makha Bucha Day in Bangkok.

One night in Bangkok

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble,” sang Murray Head for the musical Chess in an iconic track that sums up, pithily and unapologetically, everything that represents the capital of Thailand. Made of equal parts spirituality and sleaze, commoditization and nirvana, Bangkok continues to hold tourists in thrall.

Home to over 9 million people, Thailand's capital is both one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia and a wannabe metropolis with one of Asia's widest rich-poor disparities. The chaotic and vibrant city is a mishmash of dizzying skyscrapers and colossal shopping malls jammed up against residential apartment buildings and homes. Crowded streets bustle with sidewalk vendors and motorbikes, and 7.5 million registered cars overwhelm roads designed for just 1.4 million.

Just an air-hop from Bangkok, famous among other things for its intriguing Magic Tattoo Festival (see slideshow: Incredible Ink) are the floating markets (see slideshow: Footloose in Thailand's Floating Markets) and beach resorts (see slideshow: Hale and hearty in Thailand's resort islands), but the capital alone has its charms, its draws, its temptations and its traps. Not much to choose between despair and ecstasy, as some might say, quoting the song written by Swedish lyricist Anders Glenmark.

And, yes, you can't be too careful with your company.